BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – While a lot of Western New York families still have a few weeks left of summer vacation, students at the Charter School for Applied Technologies headed back to class Monday.
About 2,100 students in grades K-12 attend CSAT in one of its three buildings. 960 students went back to class in the K-5 building Monday, but by the year 2020, that number is expected to grow to about 1,500 students.
The Charter School for Applied Technologies offers unique learning opportunities for those students, packing plenty of activities into the school year.
For example, elementary school students have access to a greenhouse on campus, where they’ll grow food that’s served by the school.
It’s a chance to put science lessons into action for the students, many of whom do not have access to garden space or very much fresh produce at home. About 85 percent of students at CSAT live below the poverty line.
CSAT’s rigorous and demanding curriculum is designed to set all of its students up for future success.
“There’s not enough hours in the day to make sure our kids are ready to become productive members of society, and we really pride ourselves on the fact that when we’re here, the learning is engaging and fun,” said Andrew Lyle, the K-5 principal.
Teachers have been preparing their classrooms for weeks ahead of the first students arriving Monday.
“The children are nervous coming in and we’re a little nervous coming in, but excited,” said kindergarten teacher Pam Lawless. “I think it’s going to be a good day.”
The first day of kindergarten can be tough for the students, who will have to get used to being in the classroom from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. every day.
The first day of kindergarten seems to be even harder for some parents. “Very excited but very emotional. That’s my baby, you know,” said the parent of one kindergartner, Amber Kistler, as she wiped tears from her eyes.
“But I know he’s in great hands,” she added. “This is a great school.”
Kistler graduated from CSAT herself. The school has a 98 percent graduation rate.
Charter school advocates point to the flexibility of the charter school atmosphere as a large factor in that very high graduation rate. “A school like this one, which has a longer school day, is able to do more with that time, have more freedom, and you can tell with their performance that they’re excelling,” said Duncan Kirkwood, the Western New York Advocacy Manger for the Northeast Charter Schools Network as he was dropping his two daughters off at CSAT Monday morning.
This year, many students will have the opportunity to work more with technology, with the addition of carts of laptops that can be used in the different classrooms. Teachers are also getting new laptops that fold into tablets, which can be wirelessly connected to the projectors in their classrooms to help elevate their lessons.